“The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg details how powerful habits are in shaping behavior on a social, organizational, and personal level. The first part of the book discusses the process of how habits develop in the lives of individuals. Then Duhigg focuses more on the habits of different companies and organizations. Finally, the book examines different societal habits. He emphasizes that we can alter habits if we understand how they function. A significant way to understand how habits work is by looking at the concept of the “habit loop.” The habit loop is a three-step process describing how habits form. This pattern includes a cue, routine, and reward. Understanding this process makes habits more easily controllable because people can recognize the cues that lead to their habits. Marketers also use the habit loop to form new habits for consumers. The book emphasizes that habits can only be changed with the belief that change is possible. Duhigg touches on willpower, and how this can be turned into a habit leading to individual success. He states that people can eliminate negative habits, and form more positive ones. This book was interesting and engaging. It taught me a lot about how important habits are and how they can lead to positive life changes.
My favorite chapter in the book was chapter 9 titled, “The Neurology of Free Will” which shares the consequences of habit formation. This section of the book touches on the story of a man named Brian who murdered his wife unconsciously in his sleep due to sleep terror. It also tells the story of a woman, Angie who gambled away all of her money and destroyed her life. The central idea of this chapter is to understand the role that habit plays in responsibility and free will. Angie was able to control and understand her gambling behaviors, so she ended up being found guilty in court. However, Brian did not face such consequences, because he had a lack of power over his behaviors being that he was asleep.
This chapter stood out to me mainly because of its emphasis on how our habits come with responsibilities that can be positive or negative. I found that Angie's story relates to the slides on drugs, impulsivity/self-control, and rewards. Angie's gambling is a behavioral addiction that affects all aspects of her life, altering her relationships, finances, and ultimately leading to legal trouble. This situation also connects to impulsivity in the way that she would act on her immediate desires without considering the consequences of her actions. Angie did not consider the long-term effects of gambling all of her money away, proving that she acted impulsively without thought. It is evident that she also lacked self-control, or the ability to resist her temptations to gamble. Lastly, having a gambling addiction also ties into rewards because rewards reinforce habits. Angie was driven to gamble and potentially win the reward of money in this case leading to feelings of pleasure and excitement.
Learning about Duhigg's ideas about habit formation, its influence on behavior, and how we can change habits can address many current issues. The book provides ways to overcome individual habits that didn't once seem possible to change or break. For example, addictive habits can become positive habits. Many people struggle daily with addictive behaviors, and tackling this problem through the habit loop can lead to a better quality of life for millions of people globally struggling with addiction. Understanding habits can also increase willpower in the workplace, increasing productivity and making things flow more efficiently. In the video below Duhigg explains in detail how the habit loop works and existing research on its effectiveness. He goes into detail about how willpower is needed in jobs to enhance customer service, and how our everyday behaviors are compelled by habits.